Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (626)

Darragh O'Brien


626. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of plans to establish bodies such as approved housing bodies in the higher education institutions sector to access Housing Finance Agency funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50060/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland provides for the establishment of dedicated delivery structures, such as Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) sector to access Housing Finance Agency (HFA) funding.

The HFA held bilateral meetings with each of the seven Universities to introduce the HFA and to assess potential demand and timelines to delivery. During the meetings, the HFA outlined the choice available to the HEIs to either: a) establish AHBs to access finance from the HFA or b) to borrow directly from the HFA.

The HFA provided the Universities with information on the procedures to establish a new AHB. Feedback suggested that the HEI preference was to borrow directly from the HFA once the necessary Commencement Order had been passed. This is considered to be a more straightforward approach.

Section 51 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 then amended the Housing Finance Agency Act 1981 to enable the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) to lend to Institutes of Higher Education for the provision or management of student accommodation, including the acquisition of land for this purpose.

This provision became operational on 3 July 2017. Long term finance at very competitive fixed or variable rates is now available for HEIs from the Housing Finance Agency.

As outlined in the HFA Annual Report 2018, three universities have had loan applications approved totalling €167m for the provision of 1,428 new student bedrooms.